Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Battle of Jericho - Fun Run

Roughly once... and if I'm lucky... twice a year I venture up to the Walls of Jericho to run and explore the "Grand Canyon of the South." This place holds a very special place in my heart for it was my first "destination" run when I started trail running. Every time I visit the WOJ, I walk away with a greater appreciation of the trail running the South has to offer.

During my annual outing last year... I schemed up a rough concept... "Battle of Jericho." Originally it was planned to be a 49 mile self supported fun run based on one of my favorite stories from the Bible. I was all set to battle the canyon last April, but a flair up of plantar fasciitis hindered me from doing much of anything... so the BOJ got filed away in the "Mind of Fiction" folder on my laptop.

This past Thanksgiving I jumped at the opportunity to go wander the Skyline woods again. I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the Alabama trail head just as the sun was lighting the sky. I threw on my vest, opened a Clif Bar, and started down the long, winding 2 mile 1000ft descent to the base of the canyon. Somewhere between Clark's Cemetery and the Walls of Jericho natural amphitheater I thought to myself... "I've gotta get people out here." In that moment, I decided to map out a fun route that tagged all the scenic and must see features that showcased the beauty of the Walls of Jericho. The more I ran, climbed and scurried through the woods... the more excited I got to show people this amazing place.

Battle of Jericho

Battle of Jericho Fun Run: 10am - Saturday April 23rd 2016
Vertical K: 8am - Sunday April 24th 

I've created an event for the Battle of Jericho (BOJ) on Facebook. The link below will get you to the event page where you can find any updates, maps, or any other details you may be wondering about...

(Note: you may have to sign into Facebook to access this link)

As you probably have read from the link... the purpose of this run is simple. I want to get a group of people together and show them an amazing place without having to worry about competing. It would be best if you got a small group that you enjoyed running with and ran together! Please please please... stop and take pictures... go off trail... splash around in the water. THERE IS NO TIME LIMIT AND TIME WILL NOT BE RECORDED. Simply have fun and enjoy a day on the trails with friends.

Course Preview 

Disclaimer: this is not a race or a certified event in any way, shape or form. It is a fun run.You are running at the Walls of Jericho under your own will. You and you alone will be held responsible for any injury or accident that may occur... I, Zachary Andrews, am not responsible or held liable for anyone's actions. Oh... and please don't litter.

The route is approximately 15-16 miles with roughly 3500ft gain and 3500ft loss. It's hard to get a true estimate of the exact mileage and elevation since the GPS loses signal in certain parts. If you have issues with running a route that doesn't have the exact described mileage or elevation... my 3 legged cat Wobbles is heading my complaints department and Wobbles gives excactly zero sh*ts. 

I have ran the route numerous times at a pretty relaxed pace (leaving time for off trail adventuring/pictures and etc). It usually takes me 3-4.5hrs to complete the route. The route will have a few out and back sections as well as loops... but it will be well marked with neon flagging (which I'll announce the color when I pick it up) and Battle of Jericho signs. This will alleviate any confusion as to which direction you should be headed. I will also have simple turn by turn directions to hand out for anyone that would like to have a copy. I will also type up a turn by turn template that you can save to your phone. 

I have decided to do a picture/virtual course preview since most of you have not been to the Walls of Jericho. This will help you identify certain landmarks and get a feel for the course before venturing out. The LAST thing I want is for anyone to get turned around or lost...

There will be a pre-run briefing around 9:45am at the Alabama trail head parking lot. The run will start at approximately 10am... but honestly... you can start whenever you want.

The Alabama side is splashed with RED blazes (Roll Tide). Again I'll have colored flagging (something neon and bright that I'll announce when I pick them up) and signs for any section with a turn...

You'll leave the parking lot and start your 1000ft descent down the single track towards Mill Creek.

The descent will switchback its way down into the canyon. The trail levels out quiet often but it's heavily ingrained with roots and rocks.

You'll continue down the single track and eventually Mill Creek will come into view.

Once you reach the bottom... take a LEFT and cross the footbridge. (mile 2.2ish)

You'll cross a small ATV road but will see a Walls of Jericho sign. Continue straight and wind through the woods...

Continue straight and pass through a fence...

Cross the water or rocks... (depending on how much rain fall there has been)

You'll come to Clark's Cemetery. Feel free to RESPECTIVELY check out the tombstones (mile 2.7ish)

Stay RIGHT (there will be a BOJ sign) and continue along the single track. This will be an out and back. You will head to the Walls of Jericho and then retrace your steps back to the cemetery.  

You'll make your way towards the Walls of Jericho amphitheater as you run the ridge alongside the water...

The trail along the ridge is rolling and fun!

It is usually muddy and slippery so be cautious.

Please... USE CAUTION, BE SMART and BE SAFE!!! It will be a daunting task to drag your ass back out if you get hurt. There is practically NO cell phone reception. So what are we going to do? Yes... DND... Do Nothing Dumb!!!

A kind soul has tied a rope along a slippery section...

You will eventually come to the end of the trail.

Start moving towards the waterfall. Make your way across the water and rocks and you'll regain the trail on the RIGHT side of the waterfall. There's no real path to get across... just figure out what works best for you. I'll have flagging here since there are no blazes.

Feel free to venture out into the water... :)

After splish splashing around... follow the trail up to the top of the short waterfall. You'll find yourself in a wide open, rocky space. Welcome to the Walls of Jericho!

You will eventually make your way to the very back of this canyon where you will be required to tattoo (aka Sharpie) yourself with a symbol... but please take the time to enjoy the area before moving on! The rock can and probably will be EXTREMELY slick!!

Make your way to the back of this section. You'll have to climb up some rocks to get to the second level... it's not high by any means (chest level), but I will do my best (no promises) to secure a rope for anyone that needs a little help... if no rope is attainable... partner up and give each other a little boost.

Continue along the rock until you reach the end. God willing... there will be a glorious waterfall awaiting... (mile 3.5ish)

Feel free to venture down to the bottom...

But before retracing your steps...

You'll see a box on the edge near the waterfall (where Joel is so kindly pointing). Use the Sharpie inside to draw the symbol on your forearm. This will be your documentation of making it to the falls.

Start retracing your steps...

All the way back to the top of the first little waterfall...

Cross back over to the single track and start heading back to Clark's Cemetery.

You will follow the same trail back to Clark's Cemetery. When you get back to the cemetery, you will take a RIGHT (BOJ sign) and head across the campground to start climbing the ridge. I'll have multiple flags leading you in the right directions. (mile 4.3ish)

You'll start the first major climb of the day to the top of the ridge. Besides my flagging, YELLOW hiker signs and RED blazes will reassure you that you are on the trail.

 Keep following the RED blazes and flags until you reach a rock that says "END."

For most hikers this is the end of the trail... however... as trail runners... we know there is truly no "END." You will continue past this rock. For the love of God... BE CAUTIOUS. If you are not careful during the next little section...  "END" my bring forth a new meaning.

If you slip... it is a loooooong way down. So simply put... take your time and don't fall off the cliff. You'll come to the end of the short trail and then climb up to the horse trail.

Once you reach the top take a LEFT down the wide horse trail.

There will be downed trees. The answer is no. I will not be clearing anything of the sort. If you cannot find your way around or up and over a downed tree... do not come to this fun run. You will not have fun.

You will continue following the horse trail until you reach the bottom. There are no blazes in this section so continue to look for flagging. Once you get to the bottom take a LEFT (there will be  a sign or plenty of flagging at turns) You will cross another open campsite...

Continue along the jeep trail...

You'll take a LEFT through the red gate and will cross a field and then take a RIGHT across the footbridge.

You will take another RIGHT when you reach the end of this trail. I will have a BOJ sign to point you in the right direction. You will now be back on the trail that originally lead you out to the Walls of Jericho. Retrace your steps to the foot bridge that you crossed at the beginning of the run. After you cross the foot bridge you will take a LEFT and stay straight. You will pass a wooden sign and the trail that leads back to the starting point at the Alabama trail head (the trail you descended in the first 2 miles). DO NOT TAKE THAT TRAIL unless you want to call it an early day. Continue straight towards the Tennessee side following the YELLOW hiker blazes.

You'll have some flat running for a bit before starting the climb up towards Tennessee. When you pass into Tennessee... feel free to show it some love...

The Tennessee side is very well blazed. Follow the WHITE blazes and flagging... 

Follow the White blazes until you reach a sign for Mill Creek Loop. There will be a BOJ sign here. You will take a LEFT at the sign to start the loop. 

You will cross a small foot bridge and then take an immediate LEFT. Continue to follow the RED blazes and flagging until you reach the Mill Creek Blow Hole sign.

This will be a steep, but brief out and back. (mile 8ish)

At the bottom you will find another BOJ box with a Sharpie and symbol to tattoo on your arm. Be sure to check out the blow hole!

Retrace your steps and climb back up to the top. When you get to the top... take a LEFT and continue following the Red blazes and flagging. The 2nd big climb is coming up.

 Just duck your head and enjoy the long climb. You'll pop out on a jeep road and follow it for just a few yards.

You'll see a Yellow post with a sign that leads back onto the trail. 

You will continue to follow the RED blazes. Once you make this turn... it is a tough climb to the top of the ridge. Once you get to the top, the blazes will change to BLUE and you will see a sign that says that the trailhead is .35 miles. Again... I will have neon flagging to reassure you're on the right path.

Stay RIGHT on the BLUE trail. You'll pass a plaque...

There is a trail that breaks off to the LEFT that will take you to the Tennessee parking lot. There will be a BOJ sign that will direct you to make the LEFT for aid or to continue straight without stopping for aid. By all means... If you do not need aid, continue straight along the ridge, following the BLUE/WHITE blazes. Water will be at the Tennessee trail head for those that need it. The water will probably be put it in the back of someone's truck to ensure outsiders won't be tempted to mess with it. Though I do not believe you will need any sort of drop bag, you are more than welcome to drop a bag here at your own risk. It's only a 2 mile drive up to this trail head from the Alabama trail head parking lot. (mile 10.5ish) And I have mentioned it in my event's page... but please do not rely on aid. You should carry enough water/food to be self sufficient for 4-5hrs.

After refilling, return back along the approach trail and take a LEFT to continue on the course. 

Continue to follow the BLUE/WHITE blazes. You will start to descending back down off of the ridge and will pick back up the WHITE blazes. 

You will cross over a jeep road and continue the WHITE blazed trail. 

You will eventually meet back up to where you started the Mill Creek Loop. DO NOT TURN RIGHT AND DO THE LOOP AGAIN. Stay straight and retrace you steps along the WHITE blazed trail. Follow the main trail all the way back to the sign leading up to the Alabama trail head. 

Take a LEFT to start the final 2 miles and 1000ft climb up to the parking lot!

We will finish up and gather near the camping area... so feel free to throw down a blanket or fold out chair, crack open a cold beer, and enjoy the rest of your afternoon! 

Vertical K

For those that feel up to the challenge... there will be a Vertical K the following morning. We will hike the 2 miles down to the foot bridge at Mills Creek around 730-8am. Once we are gathered at the bottom, someone will say go, and we will race to the top! 1000ft gain over the course of 2 miles.... very runnable... but will be a challenge on tired legs! 



The Walls of Jericho trail head is roughly 10 minutes north of Hytop Alabama off of Highway 79. I will have directions posted up on the Facebook page, but RootsRated has a good description and directions for the Walls of Jericho.

There are 2 parking lots for the Walls of Jericho.

One for horses...

And one for hikers...

We will start in the parking lot made for HIKERS. If you are a horse... you are not allowed to participate in the Battle of Jericho. My sincerest apologies. 


The Walls of Jericho has a very primitive campground tucked back away from the parking lot. There is actually a really nice porta potty in the parking lot (no joke one of the nicest I've seen)... but that is the only luxury this place includes. There is NO running water... therefore no showers. 

There is a really nice designated area for camping. It sits on the cliff side and has a few fire rings. 

There is also a wide open field connected with it and can be used for spill over camping. 

These spots are FREE... therefore FIRST COME FIRST SERVE. Since I've been running there... I have not seen a single person camping, so I don't think there will be a problem grabbing a spot. I will be going up the Friday before to set up camp for those who would like to join. 


There has been a large number of people RSVP via Facebook. Though I don't believe every single person will come to BOJ... I cannot provide food for everyone out of my own pocket. I wish I could... but I can't. So we can discuss what our options are on the Facebook event page. Possibly cookout with hamburger/hotdogs/etc... but it would probably be a good idea to bring some food of your own! 

This is BYOB! If you are consuming the Devil's water... please act like a responsible adult. I always encourage a good time, but no one likes a drunken fool. 

PSA: I love whiskey, bourbon and craft beer ;)

There is a gas station a few miles from the trail head in case you need any supplies. There is also a really down home country style restaurant down the road in Skyline.


There is little to no cell service down on the trails at the Walls of Jericho. I have had spotty service (Verizon) in the parking lot, but it's hard to grab a signal. There is a gas station a few miles down the road where a signal can be found. 

Finisher Awards

There will be no finisher awards. Why? Because this is NOT a race. If you run for the sole reason to receive medals, pint glasses, buckles, or  t shirts... then you WILL be disappointed at the end of this run. If you must have a finishers award... I will be more than happy to give you a hug or a gold star sticker if it'll make you feel better.

There will be one and only one award given at the Battle of Jericho: Best Picture. 

After it's all said and done, feel free to post all the pictures your little heart desires onto the Facebook event's page. I will choose my favorite 5, repost them, and the one with the most likes will get the prize. 

"Zach, what's the prize?!?" 

You'll see :) 

I'm encouraging everyone to come join in on the fun.... whether you are a seasoned trail runner or one that is just starting to get your feet dirty... I believe you'll thoroughly enjoy the run. 

If you don't feel up to the entire 15 or so miles... come out and just hike or run a portion of it! The hike to the Walls of Jericho is a 7 mile out and back from the Alabama trail head. I've seen people young and old on this trek. If you don't feel like being active at all... come out set up a tent or a hammock!  Feel free to bring the fam jam and invite anyone that would enjoy a fun weekend in the woods. 

My intentions behind the Battle of Jericho are simple: to get back to the roots of why we all fell in love with trail running... for the adventure, the fellowship with new and old friends, and the love of the outdoors. 

Hope to share the trail with you soon! 

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